Introductory Note:

If we are totally honest with ourselves, we can see why so many criticize Christianity. What they have seen of it is empty of Christ’s joy, peace, and goodness. In the 1930s Thomas Kelly recognized that much of the American church was only Christian in name and cultural identity. In this essay Kelly urges his hearers to move into a real, “decided Christianity” of whole-hearted devotion to Jesus. While the cultural specifics that he mentions are nearly 100 years old, Kelly’s message is still fresh and timely for us today: “True decidedness is not of doctrine, but of life orientation. It is a commitment of life, thoroughly, wholly, in every department and without reserve, to the Inner Guide.”

Grace Pouch
Content Manager

Anyone who has lived in totalitarian Europe in recent years knows the intensity with which Nazi and Fascist and Communist converts fling themselves into the proclamation of their new gospels. No flaccid, conveniently conventional Christian has a message today for such impassioned converts to secular gospels. Only a decided Christian can hope to proclaim a significant gospel in these days.

This decidedness in a Christian is not to be confused with the decidedness of the bigot, or the man with a one-string gospel. It is not a decidedness about a particular doctrine. Such decided” Christians are plentiful, but they are not the answer to the world’s need. True decidedness is not of doctrine, but of life orientation. It is a commitment of life, thoroughly, wholly, in every department and without reserve, to the Inner Guide. It is not a tense and reluctant decidedness, an hysterical assertiveness. It is a joyful and quiet displacement of life from its old center in the self, and a glad and irrevocable replacement of the whole of life in a new and divine Center. It is a life lived out from an all-embracing center of motivation, which in glad readiness wills to do the will of the Father, so far as that will can be discerned. It is a life of integration, of peace, of final coordination of all one’s powers, within a singleness of commitment. It is the final elimination of all tolerated double-mindedness, and the discovery of the power which comes from being in the unity.”

Such decidedness is not forced upon us by external circumstances. It cannot be whipped up as an artificial intensity, for the purpose of opposing the secular gospels of our day. It is of the essence of Christianity to be totalitarian in its claims. If we as Christians hope to be instruments of the Divine Life in these days, we must be ready to pass out of the stage of mere Christianity, to the stage of decided Christians.

This same demand for a decided Christianity is stirring all about us. Why are so many unchurched? It is not all due to apathy. It is not due wholly to Mammon worship, snug, smug, and convenient as such answers are. Is it not partly due to a desperate honesty, to a deep sincerity? Men and women everywhere […] have a deep, deep demand within them for an absolutely vital religion, for an absolute ground and validation of life. This Inner Witness within them is sharper than a two-edged sword. It cuts through shams. It rejects confused and shilly-shally faiths. It is the aqua-regia which exposes and dissolves away all surface hypocrisies that have tried to pass as pure gold. Too many churches and church programs are elusive, archaic, watered down. The Inner Witness within our critical generation leads it to feel, often inarticulately, that this is not the answer to the soul’s demand. No doubt many churches are visited and too hastily dismissed by overcritical, impatient persons. No doubt many critics are easily moved by pride or intellect, and are not yet humbled sufficiently to discover their souls’ good in lowly form. However, the fact remains that the decided Christianity is what is sought, and where it is not found the inquirer wanders away, and all too often abandons his dream of finding the Friend behind the Phenomena.”

It is just this Inner Witness that has made men critical of halfhearted religions to which we can appeal. Here is a real point of entrance. Some criticism is largely rooted in intellectual snobbery, some criticisms are rationalizations. But, after discount is made of all these evasions, there is a core sincerity in all men, a yearning for the Real, a deep-set hunger for the Homeland of the soul. They fly as a cloud, as doves to their windows.” The world is full of seekers, as it was in the days of the First Publishers of Truth. They are not sentimental, ostentatious seekers, but baffled, confused, hardheaded, discouraged seekers, yet seekers nonetheless. Some of them explain that they have grown up in postwar days and belong to the Lost Generation. But they seek, and criticize, and reject because they have felt the touchstone of Reality within themselves.

Already the Hound of Heaven has been baying on their track. They ask for a decided Christian faith. They own it when they find it. They are much too honest to claim it as their own unless they truly possess it. But they already possess a key of promise greater than they know.

The decided Christian may serve as the agent of the Spirit to bring other wavering persons to a like decisiveness. And only he can hope to point needy but seeking men to their true vocation as children of Truth.

Taken from The Eternal Promise by Thomas Kelly. Copyright © 1966 by Richard M. Kelly. Published by Friends United Press, Richmond, IN.

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Text First Published December 2016 · Last Featured on October 2021